The Boss in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 810 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 810|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Authority and Power
  2. Exploitation of Vulnerable Individuals
  3. Loneliness and the American Dream
  4. Bibliography

John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men" explores various themes, including the struggles of the American Dream, loneliness, and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. One character who plays a significant role in illustrating these themes is the Boss. Throughout the novel, the Boss represents authority, power, and the ruthless nature of the capitalist system. This essay will delve into the portrayal of the Boss in "Of Mice and Men," examining his impact on the lives of the other characters and shedding light on the broader implications of his character within the context of the novel.

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Authority and Power

The Boss is introduced early in the novel as a character who wields a considerable amount of authority and power over the workers on the ranch. Steinbeck describes the Boss as a man with "restless eyes and sharp, strong features" (Steinbeck, 20). This physical description immediately signifies a sense of dominance and control. The workers, including George and Lennie, are acutely aware of the Boss's power, as demonstrated by their cautious behavior and deference towards him.

The Boss's position as the authority figure is also evident in the way he interacts with George and Lennie. When George speaks on behalf of Lennie, the Boss is quick to assert his dominance and remind George of his subordinate status: "I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin' his pay away from him?" (Steinbeck, 22). This exchange highlights the power dynamic between the Boss and the workers, emphasizing the Boss's ability to control their livelihoods.

Moreover, the Boss's authority extends beyond the ranch itself. He represents the larger capitalist system that exploits workers for their labor. Steinbeck emphasizes this by describing the Boss's possessions, such as his "gold watch chain with a... horsehead pendant" (Steinbeck, 20). These symbols of wealth and privilege serve as a reminder of the economic disparity between the Boss and the workers, highlighting the inherent inequality within the capitalist structure.

Exploitation of Vulnerable Individuals

The Boss's power and authority are further underscored by his treatment of the workers, particularly those who are vulnerable or marginalized. One such character is Candy, an older worker with a physical disability. The Boss shows little compassion or empathy towards Candy, dismissing his concerns about his old age and ability to work: "I can't swamp out no bunkhouses, I ain't no skinner. But I can shovel... pretty good" (Steinbeck, 21). This interaction reveals the Boss's indifference towards the well-being of his workers, emphasizing his role as a figure who exploits their labor without regard for their individual circumstances.

The Boss's treatment of Crooks, the African-American stable buck, further exemplifies his exploitative nature. When Crooks asserts his rights and demands fair treatment, the Boss responds with a threat of violence: "Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny" (Steinbeck, 24). This racist and discriminatory remark highlights the Boss's willingness to use his power to maintain control and oppress those who are different or marginalized.

By portraying the Boss as a character who exploits the vulnerabilities of others, Steinbeck criticizes the inherent injustices within the capitalist system. The Boss serves as a representation of the larger societal structures that perpetuate inequality and mistreatment of the working class.

Loneliness and the American Dream

While the Boss may seem to embody power and authority, he is not exempt from the pervasive loneliness and unattainable American Dream that permeate the novel. Despite his position of privilege, the Boss is isolated from the other characters, who view him with a mixture of fear and resentment. This isolation is evident in his lack of personal connections and his inability to form meaningful relationships with those around him.

Furthermore, the Boss's pursuit of the American Dream is reflected in his relentless drive for success and wealth. Steinbeck describes his office as a place filled with "a little stove... and a picture of the boss's father" (Steinbeck, 20). This description suggests that the Boss is constantly striving for more, driven by the desire to achieve the material trappings of success. However, this pursuit of the American Dream ultimately leaves the Boss empty and disconnected from others.

In conclusion, the character of the Boss in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" represents authority, power, and the exploitative nature of the capitalist system. Through his interactions with the other characters, the Boss highlights the unequal power dynamics and the mistreatment of vulnerable individuals. Additionally, the Boss's isolation and unattainable pursuit of the American Dream underscore the broader themes of loneliness and the futility of that dream. Steinbeck's portrayal of the Boss serves as a critique of the societal structures that perpetuate inequality and exploitation. By examining the character of the Boss, readers are encouraged to reflect on the broader implications of power, authority, and the pursuit of the American Dream in their own lives.

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Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books, 1993.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Boss in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Boss in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
The Boss in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
The Boss in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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